I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy!Tash

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Little PB Event tips to create big things for you

My first word of advice – if going to what is likely to be a great event with lots to process afterwards, book out the following days so you can process it!

Attending the PB event last week (yes, this time last week I was sitting in a room to hear Shayne Tilley in the second sessions of the day) was great and I came away with lots of ideas, inspiration and information, plus some great new friendships and relationships.

However, it was back to work as usual on Monday morning. Well, I say as usual but I’ve had some urgent client projects come up this week so it has, in fact, been more hectic than usual.

So I haven’t had the time to sit and read through all my notes or listen to the recordings of the sessions I didn’t attend. Or relisten to the great ones I want to get more out of.

Nor share a lot of those tips and insights with others.

From little actions big things happen

Right from the start, Darren set the theme of the weekend to be from little things big things come.

little plant growing

Even the biggest trees started as small seedlings

{I have to say that I was often distracted by the song ‘from little things big things grow’ used in an ad promoting a group of industry super funds! Distracting similarity but the message is accurate and valuable in both instances.}

It then followed that all the speakers gave practical information so we could pick up little details and see how to apply them to our own blogs. With everyone repeating that taking things step by step and doing lots of little things you can build a success (however you define success).

Major take home message: make 15 minutes a day to work on something important.

Think about it – 15 minutes a day isn’t that hard to find but adds up to 75 minutes a working week or 60 hours (which is 7.5 working days) a year – with 4 weeks annual leave allowed for 🙂

How many new designs could you create or words could you put to paper or sales calls you could make in 60 hours? That may just be the ‘extra day in the week’ many people wish for.

If you want me to write a post on ways to use that 15 minutes, let me know as a comment or email me – or send me a tweet for that matter!

Provide quality and value for your readers

The event was aimed at bloggers so the message was to give readers quality – but the concept is just as valid for any aspect of your business.

Some points on this:

  • Make posts and information products useful and informative
  • Find your voice (or brand) and stay with it
  • Monitor what your readers like and give them more of that
  • If accepting money for a sponsored post or ad, ask ‘what’s in it for my readers?’ You get paid, obviously, but make the post valuable to your readers above all
  • add opinions as well as information or share a learning experience so people feel they get an answer (paraphrased quote from Chris Guillebeau)

 Make a connection

Various speakers over the conference touched on the importance of engaging and connecting with your audience and with other bloggers.aspects of community

Here are some of their quotes (written as they spoke so these are close to word-perfect but may be slightly different to their exact words):

Look after and engage your readers – engaged readers will do more for making money than having lots of readers ~ Darren Rowse

Involvement begets commitment ~ James Tuckerman

A focus on building relationships and providing value to people will lead to success ~ Chris Guillebeau

[within your blog have a ] hidden message of ‘you’re not alone’ coming through as everyone needs to feel connection and belonging ~ Chris Guillebeau

Final words

I think Darren had some important words to say in his opening and closing talks.

The theme was little things add to big things, but also to realise everyone starts small so don’t feel inferior to others. Again, based on my notes, he said:

Comparing yourself to other bloggers makes you feel small and is not constructive – focus on good things happening on your own blog. Look at other blogs for inspiration not comparison.

If you have questions or simply want to learn more from the great speakers at PB Event, you could…

  • leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer you
  • grab a virtual ticket to PB Event and hear all the speakers (and see their slides). {Yes, this is an affiliate link so I would get a commission for referring you.}
  • use the #pbevent tag in Twitter – there are still a lot of tips being shared
  • read blog posts from people who were there – try posts from Belinda, Rita, Helena, Alison and Chantelle to get you started

And with that said, I am off to read more pb event posts myself and do 15 minutes for my subscribers – you can subscribe to get updates of new posts by ticking the box as you leave a comment or fill in the form in the sidebar.

How do you feel as a blogger or small business owner – do you feel small compared to others with more readers or a bigger income? Do you compare yourself to others rather than acknowledging your own progress and successes?

Adding depth to your website content

Earlier this week,  we looked at how shallow websites are not as valuable for your visitors or your SEO efforts so let’s look at how to improve that situation.

Shallow content is giving the minimum so by default giving more is adding depth. Simple.

How can you provide more depth to your content?Tablet content form old books

  1. generally provide more information but be careful to not just pile on so much information people get overwhelmed – there is a balance between too little and too much that will vary between pages and sites
  2. link to relevant information (on your site and elsewhere) to enhance your content without cluttering up pages with too many words and facts
  3. consider adding fresh content regularly. This could be via a blog, a social media feed, a news feed, articles or uploading your newsletter.
  4. look at every page of your site and review the content to ensure it meets the purpose of the page and answers any likely questions people would have on that topic. For example, expand on your services so they are meaningful – ‘business bookkeeping and reporting’ is better than ‘bookkeeping’ – and give some background on your about us page.
  5. look for ways to add value to people. Some examples are a hair dressing salon adding hair care tips after each service listed, a legal firm linking to definitions of common terms for relevant areas of law, and a book store including guidelines to the age suitability of each book
  6. only create a new page when there is something to add – new pages created with the same information focussed on a different keyword is not adding value and is more likely to annoy humans and search engines
  7. where relevant, add reviews and testimonials to your pages as they provide relevant content from a different perspective
  8. if you can’t see how to add depth, but suspect you need to, get others’ opinions on various pages. Remember your target audience when choosing who to ask
  9. following the usual rules of easy reading (good spelling, grammar, flow and being concise) will make any value stand out better than a page of words that are hard to interpret – sometimes adding value is done by removing the junk!
  10. add tips and ‘how to’ notes where relevant – for instance washing instructions with every clothing description and alternative uses alongside certain products can provide true value to people and potentially increase your sales
What have you done to add depth to the content on your site? Do you think this is something to get help with or easy enough to manage by yourself?

Is your website shallow?

What is the content like on your website?

A new term around at the moment refers to shallow website content, meaning content that meets any minimum expectation without any additional information or resources.
Consider the contact us page on most sites – there is very little content other than contact details. That is shallow content – although highly appropriate for a contact page!

Imagine that level of information on other pages of a site – for example, I followed a tweeted link today to a blog post that was purely a title and a link. It can be very frustrating for a person wanting to learn something if a page gives so little information, but shallow content has worked in the past for getting search engine results.

One of Google’s plans, apparently, is to make information-rich pages rank better than such shallow pages. I say bring it on!

So before Google makes that change, maybe now is the time to build up the content on your website. Even adding depth to one page a week or fortnight will improve the experience for your site visitors, so what have you got to lose?

So, is your website shallow? Are there obvious questions people would have that you are not answering?

scrabble letters 'writing blog posts'

Comparing books and eBooks

We’ve all grown up with traditional paper books, and if you’re like me you’ve loved them, too. Now we can get eBooks on all sorts of topics, fiction and non-fiction.

So what’s the difference between the two in terms of value? eBooks are cheaper than their paper equivalents, but does that reflect their value?

A traditional book – costs of the book in part has to cover the paper and printing process, plus transportation and storage so it is reasonable to pay more for a paper version of a book than an eBook. There is also the pleasure of curling up with a book in hand that an eBook reader just can’t replicate. I know that it is harder and slower for our eyes to read a computer screen so I assume the same apples for eBook readers of various sorts.

Both types of book involve the author’s time, the editing process (including professional editors in many cases) and marketing efforts.

An eBook can be received and the first page read within minutes of finding it, and that convenience suits many. It has the added convenience of being portable – as a friend of mine said, she could carry eight eBook travel guides with her on an overseas trip but the cost and weight of their paper equivalents would prevent carrying them.

So there is a jutification in paying for the books you choose.

However, the true value of any book is in the ideas shared by the author, along with the potential inspiration and impact on your life that comes with any good book. What you learn or imagine from the book is what you are really paying for, and that’s much harder to put a price on than the paper and printing.

PS In terms of a book that can truly change lives, have a look at End Malaria – it aims to inspire and teach while raising $20 per copy to save people form malaria. Unfortunately it appears available only though one retailer – if you find it elsewhere, please let me know!

Linking from a blog post

Recently I had a conversation with another blog owner about the number of links included in a blog post; we were specifically discussing guest blog posts but the concept really applies to your own blog posts as well.

links within a blog

Links between blog posts are like a mini internet

He stated that he only accepts two links in a blog post and that having multiple links to one blog from within a post is of no real benefit. Do you agree with the lack of benefit? I don’t.

To me, including links is a means of giving more depth to whatever I am writing about. For example, if I am writing about good business communications I may link the terms good spelling, using capital letters and consistent style rather than explaining the value and meaning of each.

Of course there is also the advantage of potential additional traffic through increasing the number of links to and within my own blog. Even if only one link works for search engines, multiple links give a human more opportunities to visit my blog which is also important.

So for search engines, one link in a post may be sufficient but I see other reasons for adding links and judge the correct number of links by the content of the post (if you look through my blog you will see some posts have one or no links while others have many links).

Side note: limiting the links allowed for guest bloggers is a reasonable strategy, however, to avoid someone trying to spam your blog rather than providing quality content. I respect such limits and live to them when I supply guest posts, even when I think there are more links of value to the reader.

Improving your surveys and questionnaires

Why do you run surveys or feedback questionnaires?

hand holding a pen over a form

By hand or online, make your survey/feedback questions work for your business.

Sometimes, when I read questions in surveys and other forms, I do wonder how important the final data is for the person behind the questions – do they run them for fun rather than as a valid business tool?

Here are two questions I was recently asked to answer – and some tips on how to avoid the same mistakes…

Give everyone a possible answer

“When will you purchase a new car?
within a  month
1 – 2 months
2 – … months
… – 24 months
never – I don’t purchase new cars”

As we purchased a new car a week ago, I couldn’t give an honest answer to that question – we won’t be buying another within 24 months but ‘never’ is wrong, too.

TIP: make sure you provide an answer for all possibilities, even if one is ‘unsure’ or ‘don’t know’. If your format allows, ‘other’ not only gives options but can gain more insight for you.

Write questions to get the data you need

“Can you tell us if you are pregnant? Yes No”

Yes I can tell you but the yes answer may mislead you as I’m not pregnant and I assume that’s what you really want to ask me about… I could get really pedantic here and note that I CAN answer but choose not to ( writing ‘please tell us’ or ‘Will you tell us’ are grammatically better than ‘can you tell us’).

TIP: Make sure the question is asking for the information you actually want. In this case, the much simpler ‘are you pregnant?’ would have done the trick.

Getting meaningful and useful results

If you don’t plan your questions carefully, the results you get can be completely meaningless. For example, if 5% of respondents bought a car recently and answered ‘within a week’ you may mistakenly think the next week is prime time to sell a car. There is no way you can tell that someone gave a false answer to compensate for questions they don’t understand/misunderstand/can’t answer.

Depending on how you intend using the answers, skewing results like this can have serious implications. For example, if you plan a marketing campaign and spends thousands of dollars in April when the real results showed September to be effective, you’ve wasted money (in the survey and the marketing). What if you base a new product or pricing structure on the answers collected?

Checking, editing, proof reading and rechecking your questions may seem tedious. The details in faulty questions that I occassionally point out may seem trivial.

The bottom line, however, is that good survey and feedback questions are more fun to answer, give accurate and useful results, and build your credibility (through attention to detail and simplicity for respondents).

I suggest you always get someone else to read your questions before you finalise any form or survey. And, yes, this is a service Word Constructions provides…

The cover or the writing?

The mythical they always say to never judge a book by its cover and I think I found an example of it today.

I found a book in a bargain bin – I hadn’t planned buying a book today but I just can’t reists looking at a bargain bin of books… It caught my eye because it’s written by Pearl Buck and I remember her book,
The Good Earth
, as excellent when I read it some years ago.

I picked it up, read the blurb and though ‘why not?’ and bought it.

As I put it on the counter to buy it, however, I noticed the front cover for the first time. I had to double check what book it was as the cover looked like a cheesy, trashy romance novel cover – and I choose not to read such books as there are so many books I would enjoy in my limited reading time.

If I had seen the cover first, I would not have even read the blurb to be honest, or noticed the author. So it goes to show that the cover is important for getting noticed and influencing decisions.

Once I’ve read it, I’ll let you know if the cover or the author was a better guide to its value!

Choosing valuable partners

A few days ago I wrote about having strategic partners rather than just using suppliers, and how valuable they can be for your business. For example, having someone who knows your business and has strong ethics can provide much better expert support with less involvement from you.

It made me think about what is important when choosing partners for your business, and how it is worth spending that time rather than rushing the process.

So what are some of the key things to consider when being diligent about selecting partners?

  • price is important – it has to fit in your budget and you have to feel comfortable you are getting value for your money. It just doesn’t mean you always take the cheapest quote
  • expertise – obviously if you are paying for a service/product, you want it done by someone who knows what they are doing. Ask for their qualifications and experience, look at examples of their work, ask around for others who have used that service, do online searches to learn about a business – don’t just rely on their assurance that they ‘are experts’
  • quality – will get you get quality results you can be proud of? will the service meet your needs? will the results last for a reasonable time? It is worth paying more for something that will last as it is often cheaper than paying for it multiple times
  • service – do you get good service from your partner? That is, do you get prompt responses, respect, your thoughts listened to and clear messages?
  • value adding – does your partner offer information, ideas or extras that truly add value to your business in some way? For instance, if I write some web content for clients I often point out some additional links or improved navigation they could use and a printer I used for a client recently spotted an anomaly and asked for clarification rather than just printing as was.
  • relationships – to be most effective, you need a good relationship with your partners. I don’t mean you have to send them roses on Valentines Day or remember an anniversary, but just have a good working relationship where you can both communicate clearly and openly to get the best results.  A good relationship is more fun, saves time and increases the chance of getting urgent projects squeezed in, too. While you don’t have a relationship while selecting a partner, you can make an assessment about how you think you will get on with each other – if you don’t like someone at the start it is much harder to work well in the long-term
  • intangible assets – not always easy to judge straight away, but think about how your potential partner meets your expectations and beliefs; are they ethical, do they pay attention to details, do they demonstrate integrity, do they show an interest in ‘being green’, will they respect your privacy and property (including confidential information), and generally be professional.

What else can you add to this list?

Valuing business partners

Do you have any partners in your business? I don’t mean a partnership business structure but partners for the business itself, such as a designer, writer or accountant.

I was reading recently about strategic partners often being chosen on price and too quickly. The article went on with “The diligent selection of long-term strategic partners is key to enabling the globally integrated supply chain and helps mitigate the risk of IP theft.”

A true partner (rather than just a supplier you use once for a quick fix) can be a valuable asset to your business and save you a lot of time. So I agree that choosing quickly and without care is not a good plan.

A valuable partner (compared to a any old supplier) can

  • move onto projects quickly and with less fuss because they know your business and the guidelines (for example a designer already knows your corporate colours and brand) – this saves you time
  • use their expertise to help your business as they are in a position to make suggestions
  • be cheaper because they already understand your business and need less time to research and get the basics in place (for example, if I know your business I can write a media release straight away rather than spending time learning what you do)
  • be trusted from experience so you can slowly entrust more complex projects and details
  • have common references which can again save time and ensure clear communications (for example, telling a trainer you want the same format as last time but in a different office rather than explaining your full content needs)
  • reduce the need to keep getting quotes to compare – even if it costs a little more to use a partner on certain projects, that cost is usually saved by avoiding this search/recruitment/retraining phase
  • reduce the number of businesses you have to deal with – this saves time in contacts and accounts and reduces risk (dealing with unscrupulous people, intellectual property or other theft, etc)

I certainly appreciate my business partners – not only do they do great work for me but I can trust them to do so with minimal input from me and maximum expertise from them. So I will take this opportunity to publicly and wholeheartedly thank Ally, Jane (who doesn’t have a website), Michelle and Eva.

Have you thought about where your business would be without those partners?

Bring wine when networking

Would you really take wine to every networking event? Probably not so let me explain…

Chris Brogan wrote a story in his blog about social media and not being ‘that guy’. In short, the story is that if you’re going on a picnic with friends take a bottle of wine rather than just coming along and eating everyone else’s food. Sounds obvious in that context doesn’t it?

The same principle applies in networking (Chris was specifically referring to social media but I am putting it together with all networking). People will respond better if you give something of value rather than if you just try taking.

So if someone at an event or on a forum says “I’m having trouble writing some promotional articles“, I could answer with “What questions do people often ask about your industry? Answering those questions is a good place to start your articles. Here are some tips in my blog.”

Or I could be that guy and answer with “I write articles – you should pay me. Did you know I could also write your website and I …”

Effective networking is about building relationships rather than selling yourself.

Here are some networking tips off the top of my head:

  1. hand out business cards to selected people rather than everyone in reach
  2. remember things about people you network with – jotting down some notes soon after helps – to show you are interested
  3. be generous and show an abundant mentality – tell others about great promotional opportunities, give your opinion and expertise, link to other blogs/websites whether or not they link back, and so on
  4. smile! It’s much more inviting than a scowl, and it can even change your voice if you are on the phone
  5. introduce people to each other. For example, a friend mentions needing a plumber and you met one last week at a networking event – give your friend those contact details. It also means introducing people looking alone at an event too
  6. use people’s names – it means a lot to them and using it soon after hearing it helps you to remember it, too
  7. don’t be afraid to ask for help (not for business mind you) as it shows you are human and you give people a chance to help. Maybe you ask for referrals to a service, opinions on a decision you need to make or for understanding a technical issue.  Pretending to know everything and be perfect is likely to alienate people than attract them

What other tips do you have for effective networking?